1 Apr


Pity the lambs of Rome.


This year Easter (Pasqua) and Passover (Pesach) fall on the same weekend, which is very bad news for the wooly creatures whose meat is a required presence on both holiday menus.

One year in Rome, I was invited to a Passover Seder where the traditions are Hebraic, but the flavors are all Roman. The ceremony began normally enough with hard-boiled eggs, the shank bone of a lamb, but then haroset all-Italiana, a paste-like mixture of ground dates, oranges, raisins, figs, and red wine. In her book “Celebrating Italy”, Carol Fields writes: “Although haroset is a melancholy symbol of mortar when the Jews were slaves in Egypt, the Roman version tastes of triumph.” (It’s almost impossible for an Italian of any origin to suppress joy during a good meal.)

The Seder that night proceeded with an antipasto of bresaola, air dried beef with arugula and lemon, followed by the very Italian stracciatella, egg drop chicken soup with not a Carciofi alla Giudiamatzo ball in sight, pesce in carpione, marinated fried white fish with caramelized onions, and then— what we’d all been waiting for—carciofi alla Giudia, crispy fried artichokes that are never so delicious as in Rome.  The next course was a creamy risotto with asparagus, and then a glorious Passover lasagna called Scacchi, alternating layers of meat, vegetables, and azzime, as matzoh is called in Italian, a rousing good ending to such a feast. For dessert we were served pizzarelle which have nothing to do with pizza, but instead are basically fried fritters with honey, raisins, and pine nuts.

So where’s the lamb, you’re wondering? That came the second night of Pesach, but I wasn’t there.  However, I did sit down to Easter dinner a week or so later with one of my daughters who was studying in Italy that year. It was a deeply sunny Roman afternoon at one of the Eternal City’s ornate hotel dining rooms with a view where we feasted on abbacchio al forno, Rome’s classic preparation of roast baby lamb with rosemary, a version of the Easter Sunday dinner of my childhood, which tasted of home.


1 Comment

  • LOVE reading your posts, Carol. I can’t help be mesmerized by the many courses those Italians seem to present. Of course, it’s impossible not to want to savor these dishes too. The flavors mix on my tongue as I read this and drive me to buy fresh ingredients for mixing into dishes of my own. Thank you!